Michigan Basketball legend Rudy Tomjanovich will be the first former Michigan Basketball player elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. After years of being snubbed, it was announced on Friday that Tomjanovich will be a member of the 2020 class that features the likes of Tim Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant.
Both a player and a coach in the NBA, it was Tomjanovich’s achievements as a head coach that made him hall-worthy. He spent 12 of his 13 years as a head coach with the Houston Rockets, where he amassed a record of 503-397 and captured Houston’s only two NBA Titles in ‘94 and ‘95.
Tomjanovich also coached the Western Conference All-Stars in ‘97 and coached Team USA to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics, joining Chuck Daly and Lenny Wilkens as the only coaches in NBA history to win both an NBA Title and Olympic gold medal.
Known for being a player’s coach, Tomjanovich was hands-off and easy-going, which attracted veterans like Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkely to request trades to Houston.
Tomjanovich was always associated with being respectful and professional in the NBA community, especially with the media. Started in 2013, the NBA Writers Association hands out the Rudy Tomjanovich Award each year to a coach who displays cooperation with the media and fans as well as excellence on the court.
Out of the 34 years spent with the Houston Rockets organization, 11 came as a player. Playing the power forward position, he was a five-time NBA All-Star and averaged 17.4 ppg and 8.1 rpg for his career. His accomplishments were overshadowed, however, by his infamous altercation with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kermit Davis. “Rudy T,” as he became known around Houston, had his number 45 jersey retired by the Rockets in 1982.
Before his extensive tenure with the Houston Rockets, Tomjanovich was a standout at the University of Michigan from 1967-1970. During his three year career at Michigan, he was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American in 1970. He finished his career with incredible averages of 25.1 ppg and 14.4 rpg and is the program’s leader in rebounds (1,039) and rebounds per game (14.4).
Second in points per game at 25.1 only to Cazzie Russell, Tomjanovich had his number 45 jersey retired in 2003, joining Bill Buntin, Cazzie Russell, Phil Hubbard, and Glen Rice as the only other Wolverines to earn the honor.
Current Michigan men’s basketball head coach Juwan Howard congratulated Tomjanovich in a tweet, saying, “My sincerest congrats to Rudy T on his election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame! He was a tremendous Michigan Man, a pros pro, a two-time NBA champion, an innovative head coach, a true inspiration who dedicated his life and did so much for the game of basketball.”
Tomjanovich, along with Duncan, Bryant, and five other members, are set to be inducted via ceremony on August 29th at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.